Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Guest Post at NFP and Me: NFP For Achieving a Pregnancy

Katie of NFP and Me graciously offered me the opportunity to write a guest post about my experiences using Natural Family Planning for her series on the differences between NFP and contraception.  After much thought, I decided to write about using NFP to conceive, an aspect of NFP that I feel if often overlooked, yet is something that clearly sets it apart from contraception.  Here's a sneak peak:

Usually when I hear about Natural Family Planning, the focus is on preventing pregnancy.  I think this is, in part, due to the fact that Natural Family Planning proponents want to prove that it is an alternative just as effective as contraception.  Although it is certainly true that NFP is very effective at preventing pregnancy, this emphasis saddens me because I believe that by simply comparing the preventative abilities of NFP with contraception, we lose the essence of what it truly is.  It is not simply a method for preventing pregnancy, but rather a comprehensive system in which knowledge of the female body is utilized to plan a family – both to prevent (or postpone) pregnancy and to achieve pregnancy.  Unlike contraception, NFP has a beautiful, life-giving component which should not be overlooked...continue reading at NFP and Me

Please go on over and read the post and while you're at it check out some of the great posts Katie's written!

If you are visiting my blog for the first time from her site, welcome!  I hope you'll stay a while and read a little about my life in a new state, as a relatively new wife (as of July 2010), and mother-to be (I'm currently two days past my due date, so it won't be long now!).

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Beautiful Mass

Mass yesterday was beautiful.  I’m not sure if it was due to the beginning of Advent or to the new translation of the Roman Missal, although I suspect it was a little of both. 

My husband and I arrived at Sacred Heart Cathedral fifteen minutes early like we always do and it was already so crowded that we took some of the last available seats.  Even though it is the cathedral for the Diocese of Raleigh, Sacred Heart is very small, seating perhaps 250 people and there are usually people standing in the back; however, the pews aren’t usually filled until just before Mass begins and there were considerably more people standing yesterday, filling not just the entrance, but overflowing along the side walls of the cathedral. It was amazing to have the cathedral filled to the brim. 

I’m not sure why so many were there.  Perhaps those that have been away from the Church or who only attend sporadically were inspired by the beginning of the liturgical year and the Advent season to attend more regularly.  My husband thought that the extensive media coverage on the introduction of the revised Missal may have piqued the curiosity of many lapsed Catholics who decided to check out the changes for themselves.  Either way, I will be spending much time this week praying that they will be returning next Sunday.  Looking around at all the people reminded me of the message that was in every Catholic newspaper in our old diocese: “When you’re not at Mass, we miss you.”  So true, their absence will be felt and the cathedral will seem empty if they aren’t there next week.

The introduction of the new translation of the Roman Missal went very well at our parish.  In fact, since everyone was following along with the new responses as written in the bulletin, there was even more participation than during an ordinary Mass.  The responses were louder and more clear than usual - perhaps because many Catholics usually mumble the responses because they aren’t sure of the real words, a problem that is solved when they can read along.  Of course, there were several times when the old words could be heard mixed in with the new (especially “And also with you”), but everyone seemed so good natured about it, lightly chuckling and trying harder the next time. 

New Saint Joseph Sunday Missal and HymnalThe new Missal struck me personally as very powerful and beautiful.  My husband and I went to a Catholic store Saturday in search of an engagement present for my brother-in-law and his fiancĂ©e and while there picked up a Sunday Missal for the new liturgical year.  We did so for the readings (we previously printed them out each Sunday to bring with us to Mass), but an unintended advantage was that we had the entire Order of the Mass at our  disposal (including the ten Eucharistic Prayer options).  I was able to follow along not only with the responses of the congregation, but also the parts of the priest which have changed considerably as well.  If you are feeling like you’ll have a hard time learning the new responses, imagine how difficult it is for our priests!  Since I was able to read along closely throughout the entire Mass, I could fully absorb the beauty of the new words, especially new Eucharistic prayer.  I encourage everyone to go out and buy their own Sunday Missal so you can follow along.  I also find it helpful to read and contemplate the readings before Mass and to follow along with them during Mass (especially since sometimes I can’t hear the lectors well).  You can buy the New Saint Joseph Sunday Missal and Hymnal online for $4.95. 

Another reason Mass was so lovely was that the Bishop was presiding.  We’ve been attending Mass at the cathedral since our second week here in Raleigh and this is the first time we have seen the Bishop.  I feel blessed to live in the city at the seat of the diocese, as we also did when we lived in Indiana.  It is incredibly moving to have the privilege of attending a Mass said by your shepherd, the Bishop, something that many Catholics throughout the world never have the opportunity to do. 

The Bishop gave a beautiful homily linking the introduction of the new Missal to the beginning of Advent using the concept of change.  Personally, I feel the new Missal has enhanced my preparation for Advent.  In the past, Advent seemed to sneak up on me, leaving me without an opportunity to prepare.  Yet this year, because of all the preparations for the new Missal, I have been keenly aware of when Advent would begin and have been able to make due preparations. 

How was your first Sunday of Advent?  How was your first experience with the new Missal? 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent: Preparing for a Child

Attribution Some rights reserved by Per Ola Wiberg
Happy New Year to all my Catholic readers!  Today is the first day of Advent, the beginning of the new liturgical year.  We begin a season of preparation, preparing our hearts and our homes for the birth of a child.  The child we wait for is no ordinary child, but He came into the world much in the usual way.  He was cradled in the womb of his mother and just as we prepare for his arrival each year, so too must his mother have prepared for his birth over two thousand years ago.   My husband and I have spent the past nine months preparing to bring a baby in our lives.  As Advent begins, my thoughts turn to how Mary must have prepared for the birth of her son through the nine months of her pregnancy and what we can learn from the Holy Mother’s example.

I have not given much thought to this before, Mary’s pregnancy.  The Bible does not give much detail the time between the annunciation and the birth of Christ at Bethlehem.  Despite her trust in the Lord, she must have felt some uncertainty early in her pregnancy before Joseph took her into his home as his wife.  We know that Mary spent some time with her kinswoman Elizabeth during her pregnancy and I imagine that this time spent together was joyful, as the two women shared in the wonder of becoming a mother for the first time and feeling life form within them.  

The selflessness of Mary to assist her pregnant cousin while she herself was pregnant is a reflection I have turned to time and time again during my own pregnancy.  Although pregnancy is certainly an exceptional time in a woman’s life and she has additional needs, including needing more rest and more help with certain daily tasks, it is not a time to become self-indulgent.  Much of the pregnancy articles and advice I’ve read this past year seemed to encourage women to focus solely on themselves, to demand that their partners, family, and friends cater to their needs and whims during pregnancy, and to treat themselves to the finest luxuries and comforts.  The Blessed Mother reminds us that this is misguided, that perhaps one of the best ways to prepare for a child is to care for others.  So too can we prepare for the Christ Child this Advent by giving aid to those around us.  

This does not mean that we should neglect our own well-being, nor does it mean that we should take on responsibilities that put too much burden upon our shoulders (something I think that happens often during the holiday season).  But Advent reminds us to look outside ourselves.  When we prepare for the birth of a child, we do not want to be caught unaware without the proper necessities to welcome the child into our home: diapers, blankets, clothing, a place to sleep.  So too should be our preparation during Advent as we ready ourselves not only for the birth of Christ, but also for his return.  What do we want Him to see when He returns?  How should we be conducting our lives in light of our Christian faith?

While secular society starts the holiday season with Black Friday, thus highlighting the materialistic emphasis that Christmas has acquired in recent years, we as Catholics acknowledge Advent, a time of great reflection and spiritual preparation, as the beginning of our yearly journey toward Christmas.  May your Advent be filled with light as you prepare your hearts and homes for the coming of Christ!

Friday, November 25, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 35)

1.  I am very grateful that my husband and I had someplace to go this year for Thanksgiving.  His graduate advisor invited us to her home and her parents made a delicious meal.  Another professor and one of my husband’s lab mates who were unable to go home for the holiday were there as well.  Although I would have made a simplified Thanksgiving dinner for David and me had we not been invited, I think that much of the spirit of the holiday would have been lost.  Thanksgiving is not just about the food or even about gratitude; gathering together and sharing good company is an essential part as well.  While we weren’t with family, we were with kind people and had several hours of wonderful conversation. 
2.  Last Saturday, we went to the Raleigh Christmas Parade.  Usually I’m adverse to Christmas activities before Thanksgiving, but I had heard such good things about the parade and didn’t want to miss out.  And I certainly was not disappointed!  It was definitely the largest, longest, and most impressive parade I’ve ever attended.  There were even a few balloons in the spirit of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (I heard from all the Raleigh natives sitting around us that it was the first year for these balloons, so they truly were a treat for all who attended).  Here are a few pictures of some of my favorite parts of the parade:

3.  The last several weeks, I have been very touched by all the kind gestures and comments by strangers.  There’s something about a large pregnant belly that makes people go out of their way to help you!  For example, at the parade, I was sitting on the curb on a blanket and several people around us offered to stand (for several hours!) so that I could sit in their chairs.  I’ve never experienced so much consideration from complete strangers! 

4.  Speaking of a large pregnant belly, here is a picture David took of me last Sunday at 39 weeks:

5.  I’ve heard a lot of negative comments this year about Black Friday and materialism.  While I agree that some people go overboard (have you read about the shootings that have occurred today?) and that stores shouldn’t make their employees work ridiculous hours late at night or early in the morning, I do think that when you take the right attitude toward Black Friday, it’s not such a bad thing.  The best Christmas present I ever received was a Kitchen Aid stand mixer that my parents could only afford because it was an amazing Black Friday deal.  It’s such an amazingly useful gift and I’ll have that baby forever!

6.  I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how I want to approach Christmas with my children.  Growing up, my brother and I always received a ridiculous amount of presents, especially from my grandparents.  Of course, my grandparents gave this gifts out of love, but there were two negative consequences that came from it: 1) Christmas became all about the gifts, and 2) we had bedrooms overflowing with toys that we never played with.  To address the first issue, I really hope to spend a lot of time with my kids celebrating Advent to prepare them for Christmas, and to institute Christ-centered Christmas activities.  Even though I won’t need to worry about this for a few years until the baby is old enough to really participate, I’ve already begun to collect some ideas of how to do this since Advent was not something that was ever even discussed outside of Mass when I was growing up.  Does your family have any great Advent or Christmas traditions that help them keep the focus of Christmas on Christ? 

7.  As for the overcrowding of unused toys, there is only so much I can do about that.  Even just the thought of all that clutter makes me uneasy.  Fortunately, my mom has already told me that she doesn’t want to go overboard like my grandparents did and plans to get less, more useful gifts for the baby.  She also said that she will try to keep my grandparents under check and will give concrete ideas of Christmas presents to family that asks.  That means I have to already have a Christmas list for the baby this year before he/she is even born!  We have very few books for the baby, so I thought that would be a good, useful thing to ask for, as well as some very basic, classic (especially wooden) toys (even though the baby won’t be ready for toys for a while).  Do you have any other ideas for gifts for a baby’s first Christmas?  Here are a couple of my top choices:

Baby Teething Toys: Baby Handmade Sophie The Giraffe TeetherBaby Toys: Baby Colorful Car ToyToddler Toys: Toddler Colorful Star StackerKids Toys: Colorful Shape Sorter Wheel Toy

Kids' Books: Goodnight Moon Board Book by Margaret Wise BrownKids Books: Little Blue and LIttle Yellow by Leo LionniKids' Books: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Saint Cecilia: Virgin and Model Wife?

St Cecilia (Poussin) -24x30

Today is the Feast of Saint Cecilia.  Several years ago, I chose her as my confirmation Saint, although I am loathe to admit that I chose her somewhat arbitrarily.  My grandmother’s name is Cecilia, and for that reason, she inherited from her parents a beautiful painting that hung in her bedroom of the Saint at a piano, surrounded by angels.  I haven’t seen the painting in years, but I assume that it probably is not as beautiful as I remember.  The beauty came not from the skill of the artist, but from the holiness and serenity that emanated from the painting.  When I chose my confirmation Saint, I did so in part because I knew that it would please my grandmother and in part because I was running out of time to choose and Saint Cecilia was one of the only female Saints I knew by name, but I also like to think that I did so with the image of that painting somewhere in the mind.

Until recently, I did not know much about the life and martyrdom of Saint Cecilia, and perhaps if I had done more research into the Saints before I had chosen one, I would have picked someone else.  As a sophomore in high school, I probably wouldn’t have related well with a third-century virgin martyr.  Yet, as I look at her life from my current situation, she gives me much inspiration and courage as I look to deepen my relationship with Christ.  While she was canonized as a virgin martyr, Saint Cecilia was in fact married.  When they married, her husband Valerian was a pagan, but through the prayers and persuasion of his wife, he and his brother were both baptized and dedicated their lives to aiding other Christians, specifically by burying the bodies of Christian martyrs, before they became martyrs themselves.  What a model of Christian wifehood!  Although I was called not to maintain my virginity but instead to motherhood within my marriage, I too am called to pray for my husband and to take a strong role in maintaining the holiness of my family and my home.  Is there anything a man cannot do with a strong, faithful woman at his side? 

While my own husband is a devout Catholic and perhaps does more to guide me spiritually than I do him, I call upon Saint Cecilia often to pray for those women (and men) whose spouses are not Christian or who do not practice their faith.  I myself come from a mixed-faith family.  My mother was raised Catholic by her Catholic mother and Jewish father (my grandfather finally converted last December after a lifetime of loving the Church from the outside!), and my brother and I were raised Catholic by her and my unpracticing Baptist father.  I know that there are often difficulties that come from a mixed-faith marriage and I pray often for my parents in this respect.  If you have a spouse who does not share your faith or if you know someone in that situation, take strength from Saint Cecilia’s example and pray:

Beloved Jesus, Saint Cecilia’s parents wed her to a pagan nobleman.  Eager to convert her new husband, she told him about the angel that always escorted her.  He wanted to see the angel too, so he asked for his soul to be purified by baptism.  The next time Saint Cecilia prayed, her husband saw the angel place a crown on both of their heads.  I ask her and my guardian angel to pray for the unconverted spouses in my family and circles of friends, and for the spouses who believe in You but are slow in spiritual growth.  Lord, in Your perfect timing, help them to open up to Your friendship and purification.  Saint Cecilia, pray for us.  Amen.

Guest Post at The Catholic Couponer: Preparing for the New Roman Missal

I'm very excited to announce that today Beth Anne of The Catholic Couponer is featuring a guest post I wrote about preparing for the new Roman Missal that will be implemented starting this Sunday, the first day of Advent and the liturgical year:

Catholics are notorious for resisting change.  Greater society looks at this aversion to change as proof that the Catholic Church is outdated, rigid, and obsolete, especially since she refuses to modify her stance on issues such as birth control, abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, and female clergy.   But for many Catholics, it is this steadfast stance that attracts us most to the Church.  While many other religions and Christian denominations seem to constantly change their beliefs and morality with the surrounding culture, the Church has remained dedicated to the original teachings of Christ which, although they should be studied in order to be applied to modern circumstances, should never waver from His original intention.  There is great beauty in being part of an unwavering tradition, as well as confidence that we are adhering to God’s will...continue reading at The Catholic Couponer

She's started a series of posts to educate and prepare readers for the new Missal and I'm proud to be a part of it.  Please stop over there and take a look!

If you are visiting my blog for the first time from her site, welcome!  I hope you'll stick around and read a little about my life as a relatively new wife (as of July 2010) and mother-to be (any day now!). 

Friday, November 18, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 34)

--- 1 ---

I know I can’t pick the day I go into labor, but I can’t help thinking how special it would be if the baby is born on November, 22 - St. Cecilia’s Feast Day.  I chose St. Cecilia as my confirmation Saint years ago, in part because my grandmother’s name is Cecilia and she inherited a gorgeous painting of the Saint that hung in her bedroom.  I always felt drawn to the beauty of the painting and the holiness it depicted.

--- 2 ---

The baby’s due date, November 27, would also be an amazing day to be born because it is the first day of Advent!  Obviously, it wouldn’t be the first day of Advent every year, but it would make a nice story to tell him/her that she arrive on the first day of Advent and I would think about it every year as Advent began.  My mom always loves to tell me (and I love to hear) about how the day she brought me home from the hospital was the first day of spring.

--- 3 ---

Obviously, the baby will come when he/she wants to, and I’m beginning to think that it’s going to be soon.  The past few days I’ve been overwhelmingly tired and achy, perhaps it’s my body telling me to rest up for labor?  Either that or maybe I’m getting the flu…

--- 4 ---

I have almost all the Christmas presents for my family, but have none for my husband’s family (other than for the kids – they are so easy and fun to shop for).  I don’t know my in-laws well enough to pick really personal gifts for them and my husband has absolutely no ideas.  I had really wanted to have all my Christmas shopping done before the baby got here, but I just can’t think of anything to get for them.  Any ideas of nice, inexpensive gifts for the in-laws?

--- 5 ---

I have been worrying for a while about what to do for Thanksgiving.  I didn’t want to go without making some kind of dinner if the baby isn’t here yet.  If the baby did come early, we probably would be so absorbed with our new little one that we wouldn’t really notice missing out on dinner.  But without knowing if we would have the baby yet, I wasn’t sure if I should be buying the necessary Thanksgiving meal foods or starting to prepare them early.  Well, it turns out I didn’t need to worry after all.  My husband’s advisor invited the grad students that would be staying in town (which turns out to be just my husband and one other guy) to her house for dinner!  And an extra bonus… my husband is excited he’ll finally be able to meet her husband after four years – none of the current grad students have ever met him and were beginning to think he was imaginary.

--- 6 ---

Wednesday, it was 80 degrees here in Raleigh.  Yesterday, the high was 50.  This highly variable weather isn’t new to me because Colorado is even worse (it was all over the news a few weeks ago that it went from 80 degrees one day to 30 degrees and a blizzard the next day), but I never can get used to it.

--- 7 ---

I don’t have my bag packed yet for the birth center, any advice about what I should bring?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Are You Afraid?

Afraid of what?


I wish I had a dollar for each time I was asked this question during the past few months.  Actually, I wish I was never asked this question, because it betrays an underlying cultural fear of childbirth.  This is not a fear that I share in; it is not how I view my impending childbirth.  If I have any reservations about childbirth, it is simply because I have never experienced it before and the unknown is usually a bit scary. 

Why are women afraid of childbirth?  I think it is because they are afraid of the excruciating pain they are told that they will experience.  Or perhaps of the many complications they believe are commonplace and unavoidable.  At the heart of this fear is misinformation and lack of education.  Many pregnant women spend months preparing a nursery, they read many books about pregnancy and caring for a newborn, but they often leave the details about the labor and delivery to their doctors.  Many don’t take any childbirth classes or if they do, they are the classes offered by the hospital which usually do not explain the natural processes and progression of childbirth, rather the hospital policies and medical interventions available.  No wonder they are afraid, I’m sure I would be terrified of childbirth if I had no idea what to expect and if I was laying the whole matter in the hands of a doctor, a stranger that I perhaps met only a few times. 

Of course, this is just my opinion, based on my own experience observing the actions and attitudes of those around me.  Perhaps I am wrong, in fact, I hope I am wrong. 

Don’t get me wrong, while I believe that childbirth is a natural process, I do acknowledge that it certainly will be difficult and painful.  I know that there are situations in which medical interventions are necessary for the health of the mother and child, and if I end up in one of those situations, I certainly will do whatever needs to be done.  But I am going into childbirth well-educated about the female body and its incredible abilities to birth a child.  After all, it has been nourishing and sustaining my child for the past nine months, why should I doubt that it is also capable of birthing him/her? 

But I do not only go into childbirth unafraid because I am knowledgeable; perhaps the main reason I’m not afraid is because of my strong faith in God.  I trust in the Lord to protect me and my child.  And if I were to die in childbirth, as unlikely as that may be, I am unafraid of death. 

Now if you asked me if I am afraid of being a parent, that’s a completely different story.  I am much more afraid of the hours, days, weeks, years that follow childbirth.  I am humbled and a bit terrified when I think of the awesome responsibilities of parenthood, of raising a child to love God and to be a compassionate, responsible citizen.   But one step at a time…I’m first going to focus on getting my little one out into the world (any time now!). 

Friday, November 11, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 33)

--- 1 ---

On this Veterans Day, I am so grateful for all the men and women that have sacrificed so much to protect our safety and liberty.  I am also thankful for the families of our service men and women who have to endure the absence of their loved ones.  Your service and dedication do not go unnoticed!

--- 2 ---

I’ll be 38 weeks on Sunday!  Baby will be here anytime in the next month.  Living in a society where everything seems to be scheduled and timed to the second, it is so strange to have absolutely no idea (or control over) when the baby will be born.  But I think the surprise just adds to the excitement!

--- 3 ---

Speaking of surprises, I am so glad we decided not to find out the sex.  It was really fun going through the baby’s dresser, picking out the outfits to bring with us to the birth center.  Most of the clothes we have is neutral, but David and I chose a pink and a blue outfit and I can’t wait to see which one our little one will come home in!

--- 4 ---

David and I went on a date out to dinner tonight at the midwife’s order.  With the baby coming at any time, it was nice to have one last night just the two of us before we become a family of three.  David referred to our meal tonight as our “last supper” - I’m not exactly sure what he means by that…

--- 5 ---

I’ve received several kind comments and emails in response to my post the other day about deciding to stop attending a mother’s group due to the other mothers’ negativity.  Thank you so much!  The kindness shown to me over the internet by people who don’t know me and don’t have any personal stake in my well-being never fails to surprise and amaze me.  

--- 6 ---

The past few weeks, I’ve been planning my grocery shopping very carefully.  I’ve looked at blogs for the best deals at my local grocery stores (my favorite blog for this is Southern Savers), matched up sales with coupons, and made detailed shopping lists.  I’ve saved a ton!  Yesterday, between sales and coupons, I saved $38 and spent $40 at the grocery store - almost 50% savings!  To be fair, I got lucky and several of the items I needed that I expected to pay full price for were on sale (or even clearance!).  I wouldn’t call myself an extreme couponer, but I definitely feel like I’ve learned a few tricks that will help bring our grocery budget down - and believe me, it really needs to be lowered.  

--- 7 ---

Source: blogs.babble.com via Mandi on Pinterest

I can’t say enough wonderful things about this Nutella pudding recipe It’s very easy and one of the best puddings I’ve ever had - my husband especially loved it.  I tweeted about it and Kendra of The Nerdy Wife made it as well and her husband loved it too!  I’m telling you, you have to try this recipe!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Different Attitude

I’ve been attending a group for pregnant women and new mothers for a few months now.  I’ve really wanted to like this group, but after today’s meeting, I think that I finally will give up and stop going.  It’s not that I haven’t learned some helpful insights about pregnancy, birth or caring for newborns, because I have.  And it was those tidbits of helpful information that have made me go to the group week after week.  However, each time I go, I am finding that I just don’t quite fit in with the other mothers. 

It’s not the fact that I am at least six or seven years younger than the next youngest mother, nor is it that I clearly am on a much lower rung of the economic ladder than most of them.  Despite these differences, we certainly do have many things in common, especially since many of them have the same natural childbirth and parenting views that I have (many of them – though certainly not all – had/are planning unmedicated births, and cloth diaper, baby wear, breastfeed, etc.).  From all outside appearances, it seems that these women would provide the support that I so desperately crave as a new mother, especially as I enter motherhood in a new city far from my family and friends.  It is not lifestyle that separates me from these women, rather it’s attitude.

You see, despite being what some might call “poor” (or perhaps because of it), my husband and I are incredibly thankful for all we have.  While we might not be able to afford clothes from anywhere other than Goodwill or the $2.99 sale rack at a department store (and to be honest, sometimes those small purchases don’t even fit into our monthly budget), we are grateful to have clean, presentable clothing.  While we would love to be able to own a house or even move into a larger apartment, we are so thankful that not only do we have a roof over our heads, we have a two bedroom apartment.  I know many people who live in a one bedroom apartment with a baby or young child, so in comparison we feel like we are living like royalty.  I may have to clip coupons and shop sales to buy groceries, but we’ve never gone hungry.  Most of the baby clothing and other items we have came from garage sales, but our baby will want for nothing – in fact, the dresser drawers in the baby’s room are overflowing with used clothing that my mom scoured garage sales to find.  And on top of this all, we have our health and family who loves and supports us (albeit from a distance).  All our needs are provided for, what could we possibly complain about?

The mothers at the group I attend are always complaining.  They only had family stay with them six weeks to help them with the baby.  They only had four weeks’ worth of food brought to them.  Their mothers-in-law bought the baby ugly clothing or the wrong swing.  I understand that they use the meeting as a time to vent their frustrations to other mothers.  I know that they are tired and overwhelmed.  But I also know that they have so much to be grateful for and it frustrates me to see them take the kindness of others for granted.  My mother can only come for one week or so to help with the baby and she is the only relative that will be here to help.  We are new here and don’t know many people, so I don’t know that anybody will bring us food or offer to help around the house after the baby is born.  But that’s fine with me.  If one person brings us a meal, I will be happy and very grateful.  I would love more help, but instead of complaining that no one else is flying out, I will be overjoyed that my mother can be here for a week.  And you know what, even without the extra help, I know that my husband and I will survive.  As long as my little one is here and is healthy, and as long we can take care of his/her basic needs, that’s all that really matters. 

I think that the pessimistic attitudes of these women are putting unnecessary negativity in my life and perhaps it’s time to step away from it.  I am going to miss aspects of the group, especially the ability to ask questions to someone who is currently going through the same motherhood experiences, but recently I’ve felt that I am losing more than I am gaining by going.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday 5 - Gratitude (vol. 3)

This week, I’ve been thinking about the many prayers we’ve had answered this year.  I rarely said the rosary before I married my husband, but he was raised in a family where the rosary was prayed every night.  Now that we have been praying it together every night, I have seen the power of the rosary to answer our prayers.  Here are five of our rosary prayer intentions that I am so grateful have been answered this year:

1. My husband’s cousin and her children were reunited with their husband/father when he was granted a green card to return to the United States after over three years of separation.

2. Another of my husband’s cousins and his wife recently gave birth to a healthy baby boy after suffering years of infertility and miscarriage, as well as a complication-filled pregnancy.

3. My brother-in-law recently got engaged to a wonderful young Catholic woman.

4. My grandfather’s cancer is gone and he can look forward to a future playing with his two great grandchildren on the way.

5. My pregnancy has been very healthy and complication free.

I'm linking up to the Sunday 5 - Gratitude at Letters from Momma.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Babies and Miracles (Babies are Miracles)

Earlier this week, my family learned that my grandfather’s cancer is gone!  He’s had two rounds of chemotherapy in the past year.  Chemo is difficult at any age, but at 80 years old, he wouldn’t have been able to withstand much more treatment.  In fact, earlier this year, when he was first diagnosed as “cancer-free” after his first round of chemo, he had decided that he would not do another round of chemo if the cancer returned.  He told my mother and grandmother that he had lived a long, happy 80 years and felt at peace having just converted to Catholicism.

So what changed his mind?  Why did he undergo chemo again when his cancer reappeared?  The answer is simple: only a few days before he was told the cancer was back, I called to tell him that I was pregnant.  And he was determined to be here to enjoy his first great-grandchild.  A few months later, we found out that my cousin’s girlfriend is expecting as well, so he has double the great-grandchildren to look forward to.  Not only were these babies the reason that he decided to continue to fight, they have also been a constant motivation to him throughout the difficulties of the last several months.  When he was too dizzy to stand up, too nauseous to eat, too tired to get out of bed, the thought of two chubby little babies on his lap cheered him up and gave him the strength to go on. 

To me, this is an ultimate example of trusting God’s timing.  As I’ve written about before, my husband and I entered marriage with the plan to postpone pregnancy until after he had finished grad school and had a “real” job.  But shortly after marriage, we began to feel an overwhelming desire to have a baby and we subsequently became much more open to life.  I cannot believe that it was purely a coincidence that I found out about my pregnancy and told my family about it only days before my grandpa would have to make tough decisions of how to approach the return of his cancer.  In a way, this child saved my grandfather’s life by giving him the will to live. 

I am reticent to make statements like, “My child is a miracle,” or “My child caused a miracle.”  I don’t want to be that mother who is always bragging about how wonderful and special and unique her child is.  But that’s not my point anyway.   It’s not about this child, it’s about all children  - all children are miracles, all children cause miracles, often in ways you may neither expect nor ever learn about.  Babies not only bring incredible joy to people around them, they also simply remind people that life is precious, that life itself is a miracle.  

Friday, November 4, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 32)

--- 1 ---

November is such a beautiful month.  It starts with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, ends with the beginning of Advent.  What a glorious time to be Catholic!

--- 2 ---

If you didn’t see the pictures I posted earlier this week of my Halloween costume, I wore this Jack O’Lantern belly band.  Isn’t it adorable?  I came into it due to the kindness of a woman at a garage sale a few months ago.  I was looking at the maternity clothes she was selling when she asked my due date.  When I said late November, she got really excited, ran inside the house and come out with this.  She said she’d been hoping to pass it on to a pregnant woman who would have a big belly on Halloween.  So she just gave it to me.  People at garage sales are just so nice.

--- 3 ---

Have you ever wondered what it smells like when a twist tie accidentally gets into the microwave and starts to spark on fire?  Strangely enough, it smells like incense.  I just discovered that this morning (thank goodness my husband was in the kitchen at the time, because my first instinct when I smelled incense was not to look in the microwave to see if something was on fire).  

--- 4 ---

I’ve slowly been buying Christmas presents and am going to start wrapping them today.  Is it weird that I plan to pull out Christmas CDs to listen to as I wrap?  Even though it’s just barely November?  Normally, I don’t turn my focus to Christmas until after Thanksgiving (truth be told, I am slightly sickened to see Christmas displays in stores so early), but I am trying to get as much done as possible before the baby is here.  The past couple years, I’ve tended to purchase a large share of gifts online, so I should be fine even if I don’t get it all done before.

--- 5 ---

On Sunday, I’ll be 37 weeks which means close enough to full term that if I go into labor, baby isn’t going to be stopped from arriving.  I know that it is more likely that the baby will come after the due date than before since it’s my first pregnancy, but I should probably make sure we’re ready.  Really, there isn’t much more we need to do, except to put the car seat in the car. 

--- 6 ---

Being mentally prepared for the baby is a different story.  Is it strange that even with my large belly, a nursery full of baby items, and constantly feeling the baby’s movements, I still can’t fathom that I will have a baby sometime in the next month or so?  I try to imagine our family with a little baby in it, but I just can’t visualize what it will be like.

--- 7 ---

I am very excited about breastfeeding.  Does that make me odd?  I feel like so many women seem to be nervous or hesitant about breastfeeding, but I’ve been excited for months.  We took a breastfeeding class last night and although I had already read most of the information, it was really great to see visuals.  Most of the women in the class had experience with friends or family breastfeeding, but since this will be the first baby in the family in almost 20 years and I’m the first of my friends to have children, I have zero experience around nursing mothers.  Thank goodness the birth center and pediatrician both have lactation consultants to answer that many questions I’m sure I’ll have.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!